How to not be a bonehead in Paris. Visual Do’s and don’ts for your next trip to the City of Light.
The khaki shorts, the socks hiked to the gods, puzzled eye contact, general clustering and moving in masses. Thanks for visiting Paris, tourists. We see you! Yes, we’d all love the superpower of fitting flawlessly into any destination, but no one can truly blend in on a hop on/hop off bus. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to prevent you from getting jumped for your Rick Steves money belt. -jkw
Greetings from les vacances! I would love to bore you with a beach view and a half full and sweaty glass of rosé. However, thanks to a recent discovery by mon mari, I will never be guilty of Hot–Dog Legs again. Sharing all leisure-induced self-indulgence must wait till la rentree…
Voila! A rare slice of sunshine on the magnificent IÎe-aux-Moines, a tiny island off the coast of Brittany, nestled in the Gulf of Morbihan. Although the sunshine was as sporadic as our worries, I reread The Great Gatsby and relived Gatsbian decadence at a 5-day wedding soaked in champagne and good cheer.
Let me share with you the ideal day on IÎle-aux-Moines…
Enjoy a coffee and croissant on the terrace of San Franciscowith its tony view overlooking the busy port.
Rent a bike and take a spin around the island while taking in its coastal views and prehistoric treasures, including the dolmen of Penhap. Be warned, although it’s easy to get caught up in the romantic, rainy charm of IÎle-aux-Moines, renting a tandem bike with your French other half does not come with a bilingual communication manual…
It’s always a sign of an oyster’s freshness if the person shucking it is wearing waterproof yellow overalls. Save yourself and buy a douzaine direct from the ostréiculteur at Ets MARTIN including an obligatory glass of white.
Tea time! Hands down, the only place to get an authentic crepe fix on the isle is Lonely Galettes.
Book at table at Le Cagou for regional slow food, the freshest fish, and an enticing prix-fixe menu. Langoustines, Saint-Pierre, and far breton (Brittany’s ubiquitous prune clafoutis) will top off a perfect day on IÎe-aux-Moines.
Jumping on a one-way plane to Paris and submitting to a year of lingual humility was my way of learning French. Although I have mastered everything except for the French art of negotiation, my bilingual brain is continually at a loss for words, my speech peppered with long pauses and tortured hand gestures. With my brain tuned to Franglais, I have started translating from French to English, leaving me with a strangely proper speech pattern. Is this one of the proven benefits of bilingualism?
Nevertheless, here is an imagined conversation between two expats inspired by my bilingual bêtise:
A. How do you go?
B. I go well. I am enchanted to finally meet you!
A. Would you like to take a coffee?
B. Yes, it would make me pleasure.
A. I know a bar in the Marais which is quite agreeable. The prices are correct for the neighborhood. Although the music is strong, it is the most interesting option.
B. Yes, that has a sympathetic air.
A. What do you take to make pleasure?
B. I am feeling greedy. I will take a chocolate good and hot, if you please.
A. I must go. Embrace your boyfriend very strongly for me.
My family has been through an international Diaspora since I packed my bags for Paris. As foolish as it sounds, Istanbul is the most convenient place for all of us to camp out for the holidays. With my parents in Japan, my brother in Turkey, and me in France, the idea of home has never been as perplexing. It makes myself equally as interesting and pretentious introducing myself at aperos. But without Chicago as a home base, even on bad days, I never consider packing my bags and buying a one-way ticket back to an Italian beef sandwich. But thankfully, my roots have grown much deeper in Paris. Since comfort has finally outweighed insecurity, I suppose Paris is officially my home.
Albeit wrangling a phone book of photocopies for my visa renewal rendezvous, I was missing mon mari’s bank statements from November and December 2011. Hence, the Prefecture can conclude that we are neither married nor living together. With the next available rendezvous in February, I am trapped in the EU until then. Our Kanelos Kristmas™ is postponed. Yes, no Yuletide pillow sprawling, tea sipping, Turkish delight deciphering and Midwest dreaming.
“I’ll be home for Christmas” and “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” are no longer department store seasonal sludge. They tell my story. But enough self-pity. I have committed to making this Christmas a good one. I already exhausted Sufjan Steven’s new Christmas album on mon mari’s twee-resistant ears. The halls will be decked! The vin chaudwill run like the River Jordan! I will finally attempt the kitsch-iest dessert since the Baked Alaska, the bûche de Noël! Although nothing can replace the presents presence of my family during the holidays, every cookie I bake, every wreath I hang and every spontaneous, short-lived Messiah sing-along (note: twee AND opera-resistant ears), will be a sweet reminder of them. And I will anticipate the mystery destination of our next holidays together.
Having lived out of a suitcase for the last four years, I have saved all my money for practical things like rent and plane tickets back to Paris. But I must admit that my soap, water, and red lipstick regime has served me well through these minimal post-graduate years. But now that I am a madame (no, not THAT kind), having officially unpacked my bags in Paris for good, I have finally indulged in the grownup luxury of skincare. Much like mastering that blown-out bedhead or the masterful undone/done approach to dress à la française, my eyes and pores have opened up to the transformative lure of French beauty.
Over the summer, mon mari and I were invited to the bar mitzvah of 2012, a splashy, baby blue, four-day event in Monaco. It was also my official unveiling to my new extended family. How did a shiksa girl from Chicago even keep up ? My mother in-law quickly equipped me with makeup removers, eyecreams, moisturizers, and her own personal makeup bag to prep me for the event. Although I resembled an opera singer more than myself at the bar mitzvah, my favorite drugstore red lipstick could not suffice on its own. There was so much more to this ritual of getting ready. « Geez, what’s wrong with me ? » was followed by « maybe I should try this for myself ? » Nevertheless, I was once again confirmed that I will never be as glamorous as my 70-something French mother-in-law.
But recently, on a mundane trip to the parapharmacie to pick up my favorite French oat milk soap, I was quickly asked if i needed help by an unusually friendly parapharmacist. Since the bar mitzvah, I have made a mental note to invest in a beauty regime. But in the matter of moments, this parapharmacist was the French bff I have been in the market for years. She was everything a best friend should be. She spoke the truth. She shockingly revealed that I have combination skin. (The horror!) She was empathetic. A fellow chronic smiler, she had a handful of answers and a basket full of cremes for my condition. She was inquisitive. « What kind of night creme do you use?», she inquired during our getting-to-know-you diagnostic. «Oh, you know. It’s blue and it has got some kind of pharmaceutically aquatic name?» I lied, hoping she did not see the Nivea hand creme on my cheeks. Frightening me with the threat of water on the skin, she had me filling up a frequent flier card in no time.
Although my pocketbook can not maintain this fair-weather friendship, I am forever thankful for this parapharmacist and its resulting “a-ha!” moment. My life pre-beauty regime and now is like night and day creme. Coffee is no longer the first thing on my mind in the morning. It is most certainly my luxurious routine. I ceremoniously layer each one on, one after the other. With my fully-lubed mug, I am now one of the sticky-faced women I exchange the bises with at vernissages. It must be the goji berries.
There is so much love for Paris in the blogosphere and beyond. How about a little negativity for once, people! To truly uncover the enchanted Paris of real French people, we must be more negative. A big part of living abroad is occasionally dealing with a colossally, irrepressibly bad day. I am talking about the kind of day where I don’t have a red balloon to follow or there is an unromantic downpour en route to an important rendezvous. Whenever I lament over a bad day with people stateside, I am promptly reminded that I should have no worries living in my glittering Never Never Land. This is promptly what inspired a new spinoff of thefrancofly.com, Paris, Overrated. It will visit every last institution in the City of Darkness and question why it is just so very bad…
I cannot understand how people can mistake French people as being sophisticated. They never stop cutting their fingernails on the Metro. If I lose an eye to their poor public grooming, then the joke is surely on me.
How can cafés slap a WIFI sticker in the window when it isn’t even free??? “Oui, allô? This is the 21st century calling! I’ve got important poking to do! ”
Their dogs are too pure bred! Come on, someone throw me a Golden Doodle!
Don’t people know they are listening to Christmas music when shoe shopping in the middle of July? Damn you France, how would you know I whip out my coin purse the second I hear “Little Saint Nick“…
At the end of the day, all these French women are trying to emulate Coco Chanel. That is, like, so 100 years ago.
I’ve never cared much for dog poop anyway.
Yes, the buildings are majestic, but at the end of the day, they are all just so old!
After 5pm, every other person is carrying a baguette. Way to break the clichés, Parisians! But wait, isn’t cliché a French word?
I recently recounted on the HiP Paris Blogmy discovery of the latest bedding sensation to hit the City of Lights when the lights go out. The Couettabra, a fully-functional blanket with armholes which will do wonders in spiking productivity in bed. Yes, my friends, it is precisely a French-ified Snuggie®. In a country with a strict separation of public and private, this could be a complete phenomenon that I will never know about. But at 300 euros for a double Couettabra, the price is not right to even jokingly gift this to mon mari on our upcoming anniversary. But with 2 MacBook Pros and a family-sized hachis parmentier, it could make for one cozy automn. Professional investment? Is that tax deductable?